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Birmingham council bosses lack ‘courage’ to manage BME staff

Birmingham council bosses lack ‘courage’ to manage BME staff

🕔19.Mar 2013

Some Birmingham City Council officials lack the “courage” to manage ethnic minority employees properly because they fear being branded racists, the local authority has admitted.

Equalities director Mashuq Ally confessed there was sometimes a “fear factor” involved when managers were asked to deal with capability issues among non-white employees.

Dr Ally told the employment committee: “We do have difficulties in the public sector in managing staff of ethnic minority origin particularly in terms of capability. There is an issue about managers being able to manage this sector of the population.

“There is a fear factor around the word discrimination. Managers sometimes don’t have the skills, the courage or the capability themselves to deal with these issues because they are afraid of being called racist.”

Dr Ally’s remarks came as the council published a diversity employment data report covering 19,000 non-schools staff.

It showed that black employees are twice as likely to face disciplinary procedures at the workplace as their white counterparts.

Council employees of black and black British origin are also 1.5 times more likely to be made compulsorily redundant than their white colleagues, according to the report.

Black and Asian staff are less likely to join the ranks of council chief officers than white employees.

But black and minority ethnic employees would appear to benefit from greater protection when decisions are being made about getting rid of staff as the result of disciplinary procedures. BME employees are less likely to be dismissed than white staff.

Dr Ally insisted that the council operated a “meritocracy” and that everyone was treated on their merits regardless of race or sex. Equally, there could be no question of positively discriminating in favour of minorities.

The diversity report was described as confusing by Cllr Yvonne Mosquito, who demanded an urgent investigation to shed light on whether the council was discriminating against BME employees.

Ms Mosquito, who is the deputy police and crime commissioner for the West Midlands, added: “Councillors have had letters and emails complaining about disproportionate treatment of BME staff. All sorts of things are said to be going on.

“BME staff are under-represented at senior officer level. Is it because they are less competent than white staff? There have been a number of occasions when senior ME staff have left the council for reasons that we don’t really know.”

The report also showed that:

  • The council is a female stronghold, with 70 per cent of employees being women.
  • But at senior officer level 42 per cent are women and 58 per cent men.
  • Men are more than twice as likely to be subject to disciplinary procedures and sacked as women.
  • The council has an ageing workforce with just over half of employees in the 40-54 years bracket. Only 9 per cent of employees are aged 18 to 32.

Cllr Carl Rice (Lab Ladywood) warned: “We are not hiring people at the moment and unless we have a sudden influx of young people then in 20 or 30 years’ time we just won’t have the experienced staff that we need.”

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